‘Jealous’ Calverton shop owner set fire to neighbour’s business leaving ‘scene of devastation’

A mini market owner who was said to be jealous of a neighbour’s business set it on fire, causing a “scene of devastation” which could have been “catastrophic”.

The fire, at Wheeler’s off-licence and convenience store, in Flatts, Lane, Calverton, was started after petrol and oil were poured through a vent and ignited.

The shop was in a terraced row of businesses, with four flats above and two were occupied at the time.

Nottingham Crown Court heard on Monday (September 20) that internal CCTV showed movement in the kitchen area and an object dropped in a sink followed by a splash of liquid and the sink engulfing in flames.

Offender Kirit Patel, a married father-of-two who owned nearby Calverton News, which he ran for more than 18 years, had sprayed paint over a neighbouring cafe’s CCTV cameras in an attempt to get away with arson.

The owner of Wheeler’s arrived at 8am on a morning in February 2019 and described a “scene of devastation”.

Extensive damage was caused by the fire to the kitchen area at the back of the shop, where the sink was totally melted with soot and ash deposited everywhere in the area.

The fire damage and lost stock amounted to £15,000.

But the fire also affected the shop’s sale and its agreed purchase price, which had to be reduced from £55,000 to £35,000.

Patel was present at the scene in his vehicle driving up and down the road after the fire. He spoke to an officer and he asked what police thought had happened and what had been captured on CCTV.

A glove left in the middle of a yard at the rear of the shops had a DNA trace to the defendant, whose barrister, Victoria Rose, said, “has no recollection of events”.

Police searched his van and news shop and found fuel cans, ladders similar to those used by the firestarter and a black spray paint can, which matched the colour used to damage the CCTV cameras.

Patel provided a prepared statement where he said would “never do this to anyone” and he had no issues with the shop owner or anyone else at the shop.

But his account was not accepted by those locally who ran their businesses, the court heard.

Patel ran a shop which sold a lot of the same products as Wheeler’s and the victim was made aware the defendant was jealous of his business and saw him as direct competition.

Patel, 67, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, was said to have bad-mouthed the victim.

In a statement, the victim said in the days afterwards: “I felt quite emotional about what happened”.

“It was a serious offence. It could have been even worse if I was working late at the shop or if the fire reached the gas supply of my shop and two neighbouring businesses.

“I sold the shop. I found it impossible to continue to work there, so I had no other option. I was in the process of selling the shop for £55,000. The arson happened and I reduced the price to £35,000, just to get out of there so I could have peace of mind.”

Aftermath of the kitchen fire
Aftermath of the kitchen fire
(Image: Nottinghamshire Police)

He said he lost a lot of stock and fixtures and fittings, and needed a new kitchen, industrial fridge, freezer and coffee machine.

Patel, of Moorsholm Drive, Wollaton, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to arson, causing damage by fire to a building and contents. He received one-month concurrently for damaging the CCTV cameras.

Judge Steven Coupland told Patel he had asked questions to establish where the vent led to and made three trips that morning – to disable the CCTV cameras, to collect ladders to get up to the vent and to bring petrol with him to set fire to the shop.

“The effects of what you did could have been catastrophic,” said the judge. “You could have destroyed all four businesses that were linked, caused serious damage or risk to the flats above”.

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